GUEST COLUMN | Zimbabwe has a tragic failure of leadership. We can correct it now, before it’s too late | By Nelson Chamisa

Chamisa Zimbabwe
"The Zimbabwean crisis is no longer domestic, but regional." - Nelson Chamisa

In 2008, Nelson Mandela said there was a “tragic failure of leadership” in Zimbabwe. His words have never been truer than they are today.

There is evidence of failure everywhere you look.

In March 1997, Zimbabwe launched Vision 2020. Among the promises under Vision 2020 were; housing, healthcare, education, and jobs for all by 2020.

Today, not a single one of these promises has been met.

Our healthcare system is facing its worst crisis ever. Our schools are witnessing the highest dropout rates in our history.

Unemployment is worsening, amid currency volatility and an unstable business environment. According to the United Nations, 90% of Zimbabwean children are experiencing malnutrition and stunted growth.

In a nation as rich and talented as ours, this should not be the case. This is a tragic failure of leadership.

The 2018 election presented a chance for Zimbabwe to transition to a modern, democratic leadership. That opportunity was stolen from Zimbabweans, through a deeply flawed election that foisted an illegitimate Government on the country.

Ahead of that election, our calls for deep electoral reforms were ignored. In the euphoria of Robert Mugabe’s ouster, many in the world and the region bought into Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruse. They were sold the lie that he would bring stability and change.

It did not take long for the mask to fall off. The murder of six civilians on August 1, 2018, and the deployment of the army in January 2019, when at least 17 people were killed and many more wounded, revealed the true face of the regime. Zimbabwe is once again isolated from the world, facing a massive man-made hunger crisis.  

Today, Zimbabwe is a broken and divided nation, led through fear, governed by force and ruled through violence.

The “New Dispensation”, “Open for Business” and “Second Republic” slogans ring hollow even to those that were once deceived by them.

It is the superficial rhetoric of a clueless administration, just muddling through on directionless experimentalism, hoping that somewhere along the way, it will somehow stumble upon solutions.

No change can ever come under ZANU-PF, simply because ZANU-PF itself will never change.

Proven record

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has proven its capacity to deliver real change. Our capacity to deliver has been second-guessed many times by those who chose the route of appeasement. The reality is that our country did better when the MDC was in Government, and in charge of the Ministry of Finance.

When we entered the Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2009, inflation had reached 500 billion percent. By the time the GNU ended in 2013, inflation was just 1.63%. As soon as ZANU-PF was left to run the economy alone, inflation started rising. Annual inflation is now well over 500%, and rising.

In 2012, a teacher was earning US$300. It was not much, but they could afford to send their children to school. Today, that same teacher is earning less than US$100. They cannot afford the bus fare to class, and can no longer send their own children to school.

Before GNU, the economy had shrunk by 16.5% in 2008. Under GNU, the economy grew by 5.4% in 2009, 11.4% in 2010, 9.3% in 2011, and 10.6% in 2012. As soon as GNU ended, the economy grew just 2.4% in 2014. In 2019, the economy fell 7.5%.   

These are the facts.


However, Zimbabwe is not beyond redemption.

Under MDC’s Agenda 2020, our programme of action and peaceful resistance, we will this year work to deliver the legitimacy that our country was denied, and the prosperity that our people deserve.

Our party’s activities have been severely curtailed over recent months, including bans on peaceful protests. But we will not betray the people’s vote, nor let their voices be silenced.

In 2020, we will focus our efforts on the people’s fight on five key issues, namely: the fight for a people’s Government and reforms; the fight for a better life; the fight against corruption; the fight for the rule of law; and the fight in defence of the Constitution.

We will, over the coming months, push ever more resolutely for genuine dialogue. This should lead to a National Transitional Authority, under which we would implement far reaching reforms, leading to credible elections. Only then can we move on.

Losing control

Zimbabwe is again sliding into chaos. Around the country, machete-wielding gangs are overrunning the police in the country’s goldfields. The greedy political figures that birthed these gangs, for self-enrichment, have now lost control. The hunger crisis will drive even more young people to despair, and into desperate action.

A dangerous impatience now engulfs the nation. There is danger of the country being overtaken by forces and processes that are intolerant to the continued status quo. The endless police crackdowns on our people have radicalised many youths against any form of authority.

The Zimbabwean crisis is no longer domestic, but regional.

Every country in the region already faces growing social demands from their own citizens. We are deeply grateful to our neighbours for accommodating Zimbabweans, but, in truth, none of them deserve to take on the added burden of another country’s failure.

Hence our call for our neighbours, South Africa included, to intervene and help us talk and resolve this deep crisis.

The policy of appeasement has failed and can no longer continue. More than two years after November 2017 coup, and more than 18 months after the stolen 2018 election, time is fast running out for Zimbabwe.

It is time to correct Zimbabwe’s tragic failure of leadership, before it’s too late.


Nelson Chamisa is the President of the Movement for Democratic Change